Last week, our group visited the Eco-Israel program on the Hava v’Adam Farm near Modi’in. The program is a 5-month MASA-funded program that provides a learning experience focused on permaculture, sustainability, communal living, Israel, and Jewish peoplehood. We had the opportunity to tour the farm and speak with the participants about their experience on the program, which is ending in about 2 weeks. Learning about permaculture, we played a game during which we each had to chose two people to stay equidistant from. When one person moved, everyone else adjusted their position, as well. This game helped us to see how ecosystems are interdependent. While the discussion focused on our physical environment, I think that it is also a good representation of how people are connected.
Last week, Savyonne and I went to a conference at Tel Aviv University on Migration and Well-Being. We learned about migration in to and within Israel, USA, and Europe. Migration has been a common theme among people since the beginning, and it has also been common among Jews. When natural disasters, persecution, or civil disputes influence people to migrate en masse, individuals are affected as well as the countries and communities to which people go. The attitudes toward immigrants often affect individuals’ and families’ well-being and sense of self. At the same time, communities welcoming immigrants change when new cultures are introduced. When talking about the Ethiopian Israeli experience in Israel, it is important to look at the narratives of both people from the host culture (Israel) and those who are emigrating (Ethiopian Jews). I think that we have seen during our 4 months here how Israel has changed as a result of Ethiopian Jews immigrating to Israel and how Ethiopian Jews have changed since immigrating to Israel. While there have been issues of racism and discrimination, at the same time Israelis have benefited from an increase in knowledge of diversity among Jews. Ethiopian Jews have suffered greatly in coming to Israel, but they have also benefited in a number of ways. Many people will explain in their narratives about the loss they experienced as well as the arduous journey of getting to Israel. At the same time, I have not heard one person say that they would rather be in Ethiopia. Israel is the home for both the people who emigrated and for their children who were born here.
Our own narratives may be similar in nature – how much we’ve learned or how frustrated we are at the Israeli school system – but each one of us is going to have a different struggle and a unique understanding about our time here. Like the game we played at the farm, our experiences are dependent upon how we interact with the people we live and work with everyday, our physical environment, and an exchange of ideas and attitudes about the Israeli culture